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Thread: A perspective

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    A perspective

    As many readers may know, the numbers of Americans killed by terrorists and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are minuscule compared to the numbers killed in motor vehicles. The extent of the difference, however, may not be common knowledge. About 3,00 persons died as a result of the 9/11 attacks and about 2,000 soldiers have died in the wars. Compared to the 5,000 fatalities from these causes, an estimated 200,000 Americans(based on NHST data) have been killed in motor vehicle accidents since 9/11.

    Even cell phone use may be killing more Americans than terrorists and the wars. The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis has linked cell phone use while driving to 6 percent of motor vehicle accidents. Assuming 6 percent of the 200,000 fatalities were cell phone related, an estimated 12,000 deaths could be attributed to cell phone use since 9/11.

    Of course the number of deaths from terrorists using weapons of mass destruction is potentially greater than motor vehicle fatalities. The idea of those weapons in the hands of suicide bombers is terrifying! The fear of future terrorism is understandable. For the time being, however, it may be more rational to fear vehicles and their drivers.
    Last edited by mystic; 07-12-2005 at 12:35 PM.

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    Cell 'phone use has also been implicated in...

    ...cancer. Those things may kill, over the long haul, a whole lot of people. They also make a car wreck four times more likely if you talk & drive.

    Laz

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    Just passing thru topspeed's Avatar
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    For the life of me, I cannot understand why it isn't illegal to talk on a phone while driving in all 50 states! This is a pet peeve of mine and it drives me freakin' nutz! I know some states have enacted laws stating that cell phone use must via a hands free device, either ear bud or speakerphone. I am all for this as I take driving damn seriously.

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    Interesting thread...we could chalk up alcohol, firearms, and cigarettes as killing more people each year than terrorism and wars too. I don't think it's a coincidence that the killers that generate billions of dollars each year in tax revenue receive less priority than the ones that cost billions of dollars each year. But it's much easier to fight a war somewhere else than to try to take away our smokes, booze, and guns.

    The cellphone thing is a no-brainer. Although personally I've never understood why talking on a phone distracts a driver so much more than talking to a passenger in the car, I don't think many would disagree that there's potential for saving lives, reducing accidents, etc by implementing stricter rules.

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    Forum Regular Registered Member Swerd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Although personally I've never understood why talking on a phone distracts a driver so much more than talking to a passenger in the car...
    Think of it this way, a passenger sitting next to the driver in the car sees the same changing road conditions that the driver sees, and must react to. If something comes up that requires the driver's immediate attention causing a pause in the conversation, the passenger will see it too, and should understand without explanation.

    Someone on the other end of a phone conversation is unaware of that. Too many of us allow phone calls to dominate over any other circumstanses we find ourselves in. We lack a socially accepted convention that allows us to say I'm too busy right now to pay attention to your phone call - don't take it personally.

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    Nothing taken personally...I've just always found it odd that we humans can do amazing things, but having the discipline to talk on a phone in the same safe fashion you would a passenger isn't one of them...odd.

    I use my cell's speakerphone capability when in the car the odd time a month I do get a call. Both hands free for driving and eyes on the road. I constantly finding myself missing parts of the conversation or pausing before replying while I focus on driving. In this case, my driving isn't any worse than it would be if I was talking to someone in a vehicle. I suspect it's the same for many others.

    While I do recognize that a some people are dangerous with a cell-phone in one hand, and the steering wheel in the other, I'm not sure a zero-tolerance-while-driving rule is necessary.
    I'm sure we can be more creative and figure out a better solution..

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    Forum Regular Registered Member Swerd's Avatar
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    We're really getting off topic for this thread. Yes there are many things more dangerous than terrorist attack. But I've always found the subject of people and telephones fascinating. In the early 70s I spent 4 years without a phone when I was in the Navy. I suffered no harm at all. I believe I benefitted from the chance to experience life without some of the so-called conveniences that we have. I could say the same for TV, but that's for another time.

    After returning to civilian life, I was surprised at how many people let telephones rule their lives. I guess that the 4 years I spent without phones allowed me to realize how few phone calls are about truly important matters. The easy availability of cell phones has only allowed phones to further intrude in peoples' lives. They even allow people to forget any safe driving habits they may have had. For reasons I can't understand, people believe that a phone call must always have first priority.

    As far as the debate between driving with hands-free phones or normal cell phones, I think that what goes on between the ears is much more important than what the hands are doing.

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    I agree, I wouldn't miss my phone too much, I'm just not sure I'm convinced that there isn't a way to have the best of both worlds. We never question truckers who use CB radios, or try to prevent passengers from talking to the driver. What exactly is going on between the ears that's so different in a conversation on a hands-free phone as opposed to a conversation with a passenger? If the driver is watching the road in both cases, I can't see one being more dangerous than the other.

    I can't say I'd miss the cell-phone in the car if it comes to that, so it wouldn't be a loss for me personally, but I'm sure for some it could be. I'd just like a better reason to ban them altogether than a few fashionable jokes about drivers and cell-phones, and some questionable statistics.

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    Most of the people I see driving and talking on their cell phones do seem distracted. I would vote to restrict cell phone use. I often ask myself when I see a person walking or driving with a cell phone do they really have that much of interest to talk about? It is a little frightening that I will have a better chance to die on my way to KFC than a friend who is stationed in Iraq.
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    Forum Regular Registered Member Swerd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    I'd just like a better reason to ban them altogether than a few fashionable jokes about drivers and cell-phones, and some questionable statistics.
    Instead of writing new laws, maybe the insurance companies could police this indirectly by investigating accident claims for concurrent cell phone use. They could increase auto insurance rates for those people who actually do get into accidents while on the phone, much the same way they raise the rates for speeders. Usually the increased insurance costs a lot more than any fine from the police.

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    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swerd
    Instead of writing new laws, maybe the insurance companies could police this indirectly by investigating accident claims for concurrent cell phone use. They could increase auto insurance rates for those people who actually do get into accidents while on the phone, much the same way they raise the rates for speeders. Usually the increased insurance costs a lot more than any fine from the police.
    Hmm, not a bad idea, I'd be all for this. Good drivers shouldn't be punished as a result of the bad. Might be aweful hard to use, unless you could get permission to see the activity log on the cell account and time it with the accident. I don't think it'd be too far fetched to write a law requiring all cell phones to at least be "handless" when used in cars either.

    Maybe some restricted roadways as well, no rush hour use or something....

    I've never really thought of it as a serious problem before, more of a minor annoyance.

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    Forum Regular Registered Member Swerd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Might be aweful hard to use, unless you could get permission to see the activity log on the cell account and time it with the accident.
    That could be easily arranged.
    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    I don't think it'd be too far fetched to write a law requiring all cell phones to at least be "handless" when used in cars either.
    Washington, DC already has such a law on the books. Enforcing it is difficult. It may end up like seatbelt laws where police don't try to enforce it unless you have an accident or are stopped for other reasons.
    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    I've never really thought of it as a serious problem before, more of a minor annoyance.
    That depends where you live. Here in Maryland/DC/Virginia it is becoming a big problem.

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    Cell phones, I hate them, I hate them, I hate them with such a passion. Now I am carry two of them.....Dang!!!!!

    I never talk on my cell phone and drive. I tell peeps to call me back, or I pull over to the side of the road if its a work call. No one but my family and best friend has my cell number. Unfortunately everyone at work has the number to my work.
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    New York State has the law

    doesnt seem to help though, always see people yapping away while talking on the cell phone. They should also have a law for women who put make-up on while driving

    Quote Originally Posted by Swerd
    That could be easily arranged.
    Washington, DC already has such a law on the books. Enforcing it is difficult. It may end up like seatbelt laws where police don't try to enforce it unless you have an accident or are stopped for other reasons.
    That depends where you live. Here in Maryland/DC/Virginia it is becoming a big problem.

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    Just passing thru topspeed's Avatar
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    Cali has a big "Click It or Ticket" ad campaign running right now regarding the seat belt law. Is it working? I have no idea but it's a catchy phrase . The thing is, if you don't use your seatbelt you are really only endangering yourself if you get in an accident. Same thing with the helmet law for motorcycles. If you chose to not use a brainbucket, the only person that would suffer the consequences is you (and your loved ones, of course). The law protects the user but not the innocents. The usage of a cellphone without some form of hands-free device is endangering all of the others around you and yet we have no laws to prevent this. Crazy, huh?

  16. #16
    Can a crooner get a gig? dean_martin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swerd
    Instead of writing new laws, maybe the insurance companies could police this indirectly by investigating accident claims for concurrent cell phone use. They could increase auto insurance rates for those people who actually do get into accidents while on the phone, much the same way they raise the rates for speeders. Usually the increased insurance costs a lot more than any fine from the police.
    I investigate accidents for concurrent cell phone use and I have the means to prove it or eliminate it. I'm a plaintiff's lawyer who handles personal injury and wrongful death cases many of which are motor vehicle related. If I find that the at-fault driver was using his/her cell phone at the time of the accident, I will pursue a claim for wantonness in addition to negligence. Wantonness is simply a conscious disregard for the safety and lives of others. If proven, a plaintiff would be allowed an award of punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. This may be viewed as harsh, sleazey, greedy, etc., by some, but to others I'm doing my part.

    What if you're sitting in a line of traffic waiting for the car way up ahead of you to make a left turn (a sitting duck with no escape from approaching drivers) and someone slams into the rear of your vehicle and you find that either a) he/she was eating a burger and dropped a pickle in his/her lap and was trying to clean it up, b) she was putting on her makeup on the way to work because she was running late as she does every morning, c) he/she was talking on his/her cell phone about his/her plans for that evening, or d) he/she was drinking? Obviously, most rational people would conclude that the driver who was drinking displayed a conscious disregard for the lives and safety of other motorists. What about a,b, and c?

    My state's system of motor vehicle liability is fault-based. I'm not sure what your remedy would be in "no-fault" insurance states, but it seems to me that in no-fault states there really are no consequences for failing to exercise ordinary care or for disregarding the safety of fellow motorists.

    One more point on this cell phone/driving topic: most kids today have cell phones before they get their drivers' license. I find this potentially dangerous because cell phones are already a part of their way of life before they ever develop driving skills. I can only think of one teenager who might not answer her phone in traffic and she's a niece who turned down a convertible because she didn't think it would be safe enough for her first car. I don't think she's in the majority.

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    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    Exactly why these kind of laws don't work

    Quote Originally Posted by Duds
    doesnt seem to help though, always see people yapping away while talking on the cell phone. They should also have a law for women who put make-up on while driving
    Besides the waste of expensive law enforcement officers to patrol for this, it just won't work until there is some serious time and effort spent for education. Perhaps done when getting licenced. It will do a lot more good.
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    Me...

    ...I can't understand the whole 'phone thing at all and not just cell phones...What in tarnation is deal?...I have one lousy phone with absolutely no features. It rings, I answer...although most folks seem to think everybody has a phone grafted onto 'em by the number of rings they'll spring for...'phone rings maybe four or five times and by the time I say "hello" it's a click or dial tone...Sorry folks, call me and I'll get there...eventually.

    Cells are a whole 'nother thing...what in blazes requires nearly anyone to be in constant communication with anyone else. I'll obviously make exceptions for emergencies, otherwise WTF?

    "Hi, I'm on the bus I'll be home in 10 minutes"...So THIS is somehow momentus news? You'll be there in 10 minutes big friggin' deal!!! Or in the supermarket " Oh, they're out of kumquats, should I buy a sheep's bladder? Come on, make a decision...you need a phone for this, you moron?

    Bein' a captive audience while in the can is another fave...particularly if the ego-centric A-hole in the next stall is usin' the good ol' walkie-talkie feature...not only are you subjected to the dimwit on the phone while he's takin' a dump, but you get to hear the other twit who thinks it's all just business as usual...

    And then of course, the restaurant...Is there anything more annoying than hearin' a cheesy version of Beethoven's 5th while the rocket scientist gropes around looking for the blasted thing...and it's rarely anything important...Just once I'd like to hear "Mr. Bigglesworth has gone into cardiac arrest, I've got to go"...now,that's OK. For the most part, the conversation is just loud enough to be annoying save for a few key words, usually ephasized by a distinct increase in volume"...vacation in Europe..." or "...picking up the beamer..." things of that nature.

    Using a cell phone while driving should result in summary execution. Most of these creatures can barely drive to begin with, now you put one hand out-of-commision and most of the brain conversing about that sheep's bladder, you have a lethal weapon. I'm sorry folks, controlling two or three tons of rolling steel is something that requires your utmost attention...if you don't think it does, you shouldn't be driving...It's not a right, it's a privilege.

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    Forum Regular Registered Member Swerd's Avatar
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    Hey Dean

    Your post is a great example of why I like this forum. I put in $0.02 worth of amateur opinion on this subject, and we get a response from a pro who knows the subject in all its complexity. Thanks. I especially liked hearing how you persue a claim for wantonness in addition to negligence in a case of driving while distracted by phone. I agree with all your points.

    Your comment about most kids today who have the cell phone habit before they learn to drive suggests an ominous future for the public roads. I'm trying to remain optimistic in spite of that. We are still at an early point in the develpment of public opinion and behavior on the subject.

    Let's compare it to seatbelt use over the past 40 years. Seatbelts were introduced in America in the early 60s as an option that few people got. During the 1970s, lapbelts were required in all new cars. US auto companies opposed this. Later on shoulder belts were introduced. Still, few people wore them; estimates were about 15-20% if I remember correctly. This was despite the numerous studies that clearly showed the life saving benefit of wearing seatbelts. There were state laws requiring seatbelt use, but little effort was made to enforce them, and many people said the same thing then about mandatory seatbelt use (It won't work - Its not enforcable - it infringes on my civil liberties - etc.) as they say today about laws restricting cell phone use while driving. Then during the mid 1980s something changed. In the course of a few years, seatbelt use rose to above 50% nationwide, as high as 70% in some regions. Suddenly states were actively trying to enforce seatbelt laws. It took about 25 to 30 years for all this to develop. So the current situation with cell phone use in public and on the roads is a work in progress. Stay tuned. Dean, your efforts may play a role in helping or forcing the public to adapt a more responsible set of ground rules.

    A similar comparison can be made in the gradual change in public attitudes toward smoking.

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    Forum Regular Registered Member Swerd's Avatar
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    I'm with you on this. I don't understand why people want to take their phones with them where ever they go. I've always thought the best new feature on a phone was the inclusion of an ON/OFF switch.

    Have you considered getting a cell phone jammer? Just google this term and see the numerous sellers of this unauthorized device. I understand that hotels, restaurants, theaters, and churches use them despite the laws. Unfortunately hotels block cell phones so they can charge customers to use the in-room phones.

    Think of the joy of jamming the cell phone of the guy tailgaiting you in traffic while yapping on the phone.

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    I'll never own a cell phone

    I've made it this far without one, why should I need one now? I dont want people constantly calling me when i'm someplace i dont want to be located anyway. Granted I can turn the phone off, but that seems like I'd be wasting money.

    I laugh at the people who say "I'm just going to get one for emergencies" and they end up constantly on the damn thing. I always say to those people, "Everyone has a cell phone now, if you are in an emergency in your car, i guarantee someone will stop and have a cell phone to make a call on."

    Quote Originally Posted by Swerd
    I'm with you on this. I don't understand why people want to take their phones with them where ever they go. I've always thought the best new feature on a phone was the inclusion of an ON/OFF switch.

    Have you considered getting a cell phone jammer? Just google this term and see the numerous sellers of this unauthorized device. I understand that hotels, restaurants, theaters, and churches use them despite the laws. Unfortunately hotels block cell phones so they can charge customers to use the in-room phones.

    Think of the joy of jamming the cell phone of the guy tailgaiting you in traffic while yapping on the phone.

  22. #22
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    After some more reading, especially Dean's post, I've got to say, you guys are presenting a good argument and swaying my vote towards banning these things in cars altogether. Looking back, before 1996 or so, we did a terrific job of driving for 60 odd years without them.

    Enforcement is hard, just like drunk driving, but maybe brutal fines and penalties will act as a deterrent? I dunno, I'm not a law maker.

    My only concern is that there'd remain an exception clause for legitimate emergency use.

    Now, if we could just ban public smoking too

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    I have a cell phone given to me by my employer. I use it max 20 minutes a day cept when the old lady is chatty. I dont have a regular phone. I only use cellphone when people call about work, or after 9 when its free for me to use. When i do get a call while drving, 90% of the time i dont pick up. Other times i use the speaker phone. I think the distraction comes from having the damn thing pressed against your head. While its sitting on my lap, I can converse no problem. Of course sometimes i dont say anything for awhile and the ppl on other end get annoyed, but thats cuz im driving! IMO, nothing should be banned. Ever. Just ticket those ppl who drive dangerously on, or off of their cell phones. I dont mean 35 dollar pocket change tickets either.
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  24. #24
    Can a crooner get a gig? dean_martin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swerd
    Hey Dean

    Your post is a great example of why I like this forum. I put in $0.02 worth of amateur opinion on this subject, and we get a response from a pro who knows the subject in all its complexity. Thanks. I especially liked hearing how you persue a claim for wantonness in addition to negligence in a case of driving while distracted by phone. I agree with all your points.

    Your comment about most kids today who have the cell phone habit before they learn to drive suggests an ominous future for the public roads. I'm trying to remain optimistic in spite of that. We are still at an early point in the develpment of public opinion and behavior on the subject.

    Let's compare it to seatbelt use over the past 40 years. Seatbelts were introduced in America in the early 60s as an option that few people got. During the 1970s, lapbelts were required in all new cars. US auto companies opposed this. Later on shoulder belts were introduced. Still, few people wore them; estimates were about 15-20% if I remember correctly. This was despite the numerous studies that clearly showed the life saving benefit of wearing seatbelts. There were state laws requiring seatbelt use, but little effort was made to enforce them, and many people said the same thing then about mandatory seatbelt use (It won't work - Its not enforcable - it infringes on my civil liberties - etc.) as they say today about laws restricting cell phone use while driving. Then during the mid 1980s something changed. In the course of a few years, seatbelt use rose to above 50% nationwide, as high as 70% in some regions. Suddenly states were actively trying to enforce seatbelt laws. It took about 25 to 30 years for all this to develop. So the current situation with cell phone use in public and on the roads is a work in progress. Stay tuned. Dean, your efforts may play a role in helping or forcing the public to adapt a more responsible set of ground rules.

    A similar comparison can be made in the gradual change in public attitudes toward smoking.
    Thanks, Swerd.

    I like this forum for its assortment of characters and the common sense often displayed on the off topic board. Sometimes, in my profession, it's hard to see the forest for the trees.

    I'm particularly impressed with Sir TT's restrained use of his cell phone while driving, speedy's serious attitude toward driving and everyone's concern for safety. Safety often takes a back seat to convenience, instant gratification and profit.

    I don't want to be over-regulated and maybe public awareness will help. A cell phone is a nice thing to have on a trip in case of an emergency or for work. I think once auto insurers begin feeling the sting of increased claims linked to cell phone use, you'll see ad campaigns, etc. On a positive note, I think awareness and changes in behavior will be more rapid than with the progress of seatbelt awareness in your excellent outline due to the speed at which information is exchanged today.

  25. #25
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    I have no proof..

    I know, still off topic, but, I suspect that if an in depth study was done, we would find that it's not the talking, or the hand off the wheel, that's the problem with cell phones and driving. I believe that more accidents happen when someone is trying to open, answer, or dial their phone. They have to take their eyes off the road.
    Just my thought.
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